Only weeks after putting my faith in Jesus, I tried to teach my first Bible study to a group of young guys in a little church in Ada, Oklahoma. Afterward the leader of the youth group said, “Well, I guess teaching the Bible is not your gift, is it?”
Three years later I finally got up the nerve to try teaching the Bible again, after being asked to preach my first sermon. After the service, as I stood at the door saying goodbye to church members, an older gentleman looked at me with a raised brow and remarked, “Nice try.” Nice try?!
The next lady in line asked if I had any other skills besides being a preacher and then made a weak attempt to encourage me to keep my options open. Seriously, that really happened. I had to fight off the temptation to run and hide in the church baptistry. And yes, full immersion!
Despite yet another setback, still believing God’s call, I continued my journey toward full-time vocational ministry by going to seminary following college and marriage. About halfway through seminary, the day finally came when I stood before a group of spiritual leaders as a candidate for ordination in our denominational church. With the entire committee looking on, the spokesperson explained to me, “We’ve chosen not to ordain you. You don’t have the gift-mix we see in most pastors. In fact, we are not sure you are called to be a pastor. But feel free to try again next year. But for now, it’s a no.”
Immediately all those childhood memories met up with my teenage memories. They all joined forces with the rejections from the church, forming an avalanche of negative thoughts that crashed over me, engulfing me. The voices roared loudly, “You aren’t enough! You will never be enough! You will never measure up!”
And then the final verdict was delivered: You . . . don’t . . . have . . . what it takes!
Driving home in my red Geo Prizm, I felt dejected, embarrassed, confused and angry. Devastated. How can I explain to my wife that I didn’t make the cut? How can I face my pastor? My friends? My classmates? The church where I serve? The tears flowed as every possible negative thought played on repeat.
But then a strange thing happened.
Suddenly a different voice interrupted the others. God spoke. He spoke to me. While not audible, the words somehow seemed louder than any physical voice I had ever heard.
In that moment, my heavenly Father said, “You are not who others say you are. You are who I say you are. And I say you are called to ministry.”
“You are not who others say you are. You are who I say you are.”
While that was of course one of the most powerful moments of my life and a massive turning point, I wasn’t suddenly healed of my negative thinking or delivered from believing every lie I’d told myself while growing up. The patterns were still there. The consequences were still ingrained. But I began to realize God had a very different way for me to think and a much healthier way for me to think of myself. I realized he was offering me a choice of whether to continue to believe my lies or accept his truth about me.
That’s the beauty of allowing God to master our minds: He gives us a new path, a new way to think, but we have to get on board, agree and cooperate with Him.
How about you? What negative messages did you take away from your childhood?
What unhealthy and destructive conclusions have you come to believe about yourself and your place in the world?
Satan’s strategy to win the battle for your mind is getting you to believe lies. If you believe a lie, it will hold you back from doing what God’s calling you to do.
The lie will keep you living in shame from the past, when God wants to set you free for a better future.
The lie will keep you from living with joy and freedom and confine you to a less-than existence.
When legendary magician Harry Houdini came into a town to do his show, he often went to the local jail, gathering a crowd of people along the way. To get buzz going about his upcoming performance, he asked the jailer to lock him in a cell. Time after time, jail after jail, town after town, Houdini escaped within minutes.
But one jailer had heard that Houdini was coming, and the jailer was ready. When Houdini closed the cell door, the jailer put the key in the lock and secretly turned it in the wrong direction. He then removed the key, and everyone watched as Houdini struggled to escape — by unknowingly locking himself in repeatedly. Finally, in frustration, Houdini admitted he could not escape. The jailer then revealed his deception. Houdini had believed a lie, and the lie had held him captive.
Living your life by a lie is a lot like believing the door is locked when it isn’t. On the other side is freedom. But you first have to commit to some personal lie detection to experience the abundant life Jesus came and died to give you.